, Newburyport, MA

February 21, 2013

What's Up, Doc?!

Film festival offers a chance to see Bugs on the big screen

By Kelly Burch

---- — If the kids are driving you looney or you’re just looking for a carrot to distract them during vacation week, the 18th annual Bugs Bunny Film Festival is just what the doc ordered.

The festival, which takes place at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, Cambridge, will be showing compilations featuring Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang through this Saturday.

“It’s a rare opportunity to see these films as they’re meant to be seen,” said Ned Hinkle, programmer at the Brattle Theatre since 2001.

Although most people are used to seeing Bugs Bunny on the small screen, the shorts were originally made to be played in movie theaters, complete with popcorn and candy.

“Kids get a different experience with film and animation,” Hinkle said of the festival.

Peter Dankens of Andover brings his children to the festival every year. He believes that the quality of the Looney Tunes is unmatched by anything being created today.

“The animation on these is far superior, in my opinion, to what’s being produced now,” he said via email. “Each cell of the cartoon was individually drawn back then, and my kids can see how much better illustrated and animated they are. The colors are fantastic, and it’s like fine art compared to ‘Sponge Bob’ and ‘Adventure Time.’”

The Bugs Bunny Film Festival began 18 years ago, when Warner Brothers ran a national tour to celebrate a Looney Tunes anniversary.

The Brattle hosted the Warner Brother’s event, and found that the tour drew a new type of movie-goer to its theater’s seats.

“It opened up a family audience, which the theater hadn’t seen at the time,” Hinkle said. “That was exciting, and we decided to just keep doing it.”

The film festival has grown ever since and draws nearly 2,000 visitors over nine days. Many of the viewers are families, but consistent attendance at late-night screenings proves that the festival is not just for kids.

“We get a lot of quote-unquote adults,” Hinkle said.

No matter what age they are, viewers return to the festival every year to see a great variety of Looney Tunes shorts. This year the festival features three different compilations: “All Bugs Revue,” featuring everyone’s favorite rabbit; “That Fantastic Friz,” which celebrates the work of Friz Freleng, one of the directors of Looney Tunes; and “Looney Tunes Revue,” featuring the whole gang.

“People come back because we change what we show,” Hinkle said. “There are so many to choose from that we don’t need to repeat.”

Of course, some favorite shorts are so good that they must be shown every year. If you go to the festival, you will almost always see the episode “What’s Opera Doc?”

“That’s basically one of the best Looney Tunes ever,” Hinkle said.

Whether doing to see a new short, or to revisit a favorite, seeing Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney tunes on the big screen is sure to be a hit.

“People never think about (Looney Tunes) as a theatrical experience,” said Hinkle, “but that’s what it’s always been.”

IF YOU GO What:@boxText: Bugs Bunny Film Festival Where:@boxText: The Brattle Theatre, Cambridge When:@boxText: Through Feb. 23 How:@boxText: Tickets $6.75 (children), $7.75 (students, and matinee) , $9.75 (adult) by calling 617-876-6873, or at